A swarm of bees caused a buzz in New York City’s bustling Times Square after tens of thousands of them crowded onto a blue and yellow umbrella over a hot dog cart Tuesday around noon.
But what exactly were they doing there and why?
Swarming — when roughly half the bees in a colony leave their hive with a queen (leaving the rest behind with a new queen) — is something bees do when their hives get overcrowded. And it’s a part of how bees reproduce, said Nigel Raine, a University of Guelph environmental sciences professor who studies bees and other pollinators.
According to the New York Police Department beekeeper, this particular group of bees swarmed partly because of the hot and humid weather, as they couldn’t keep cool in their overcrowded hive.
It actually absconded. With the heat humidity today, they swarmed because of the hive was overcrowded and they were unable to keep cool. That was a full colony swarm from the looks of it. Lot of bees. <a href=”https://t.co/Vz5qn0vNei”>https://t.co/Vz5qn0vNei</a>
Once leaving the hive, Raine said, the swarming bees find an interim “staging post.”
“In this case, they’ve chosen an umbrella in Times Square,” he said.
From there, some of the worker bees act as scouts, going out and looking for holes in trees and other locations that might make a suitable new home. If they find a good spot, they return to the staging post to advertise the location, and other bees will check it out.
“Basically, they’re sitting down trying to make a decision,” Raine said. “They’re having a house moving committee meeting.”
Under the circumstances, they’re not too interested in humans, he added. No one was stung by the Times Square swarm.
Eventually, after hours or days, the bees reach a consensus and move to their new home.
In this case, they never got to that point.
An NYPD officer who keeps bees arrived and deployed a vacuum cleaner-like device to collect the bees.
No. You can control the suction level on it. It’s a low power suction vacuum. <a href=”https://t.co/93UqydLOEI”>https://t.co/93UqydLOEI</a>
The NYPD Bees Twitter account said the bees were taken to Long Island and tweeted a photo of their new home.
Here’s an apiary where bees that are relocated and kept. We do take pride in removing and relocating our precious pollinators. Yes, the electric fence is to bear proof it from bears as well as curious human consumptionators. Did I just make up that word????? <a href=”https://t.co/1MKuisgNI0″>pic.twitter.com/1MKuisgNI0</a>
Raine said there are usually signs that bees are getting ready to swarm. Their hives start to look crowded and they start producing new queens. When that happens, swarming can be avoided by dividing the colony and giving them more space, something beekeepers typically need to do about every 10 days.
In this case, he said, a beekeeper may not have done their “swarm control” as effectively as they should. “They’ve perhaps left it too long.”
However, he said swarms aren’t uncommon.
In fact, the NYPD said the Times Square swarm was just one of three they dealt with on Tuesday.
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